In my role as library media specialist, connecting what I do with the classroom is essential. A lot of people talk about the changing role of the school library and the idea that the school library being the hub of the school. I agree with all of these ideas, but making it happen isn’t easy. This needs to be a common goal for everyone involved – from the library media specialist to the principal to the classroom teachers to the library aides. When everyone is headed in the same direction, progress can be made.
Changing the physical space, including the furniture is not an easy, or inexpensive, task. You can paint, create fun spaces within the existing room, and develop fun displays to make the space look better for the students. Really changing the identity of the library is much harder. I believe one way to move this process forward is more collaborative work between the library media specialist and classroom teachers. When the teachers, and, more importantly, the students, see the library media specialist as another teacher, great strides can be made.
This collaboration may not be easy for everyone, but I like to think of this idea as a 5 step process and one that the school librarian needs to take the lead on. Here are 5 steps to connecting the school library and classroom.
- FIND the right person to collaborate with first. This may be the most open minded teacher in the building, the teacher you have a great relationship with, or the person with the most technology in their room. You probably already know who this person is. This needs to be the person who will say “YES” when you come to them and say, “I have an idea.”
- PLAN what you’re going to do. This seems obvious, but make sure everyone knows what they are going to do and when. What will happen in the classroom during the project and what will happen in the library. Make sure to include all stakeholders, including any special education teachers. Think about the schedule and anything that could impact the plan. Is there an assembly or day off that changes the schedule? Keep those things in mind. Make sure you connect regularly and adjust the plan as needed.
- DO the project. It seems simple, but you have to stick to your plan. Don’t let a roadblock stop the project. One great thing about teaching is the idea that if something doesn’t go as planned, you can make adjustments and keep going. Don’t let the project get shoved to the back burner.
- SHARE what you’re doing. Throughout the process, let others know about what’s going on. Keep parents informed, other teachers, and the world. Blog about it, post pictures and video clips to social media, and spread the word any way possible. You’ll get great feedback and probably tips and suggestions along the way. Don’t keep what you’re doing within the walls of your school building.
- REFLECT on the project. Meet with everyone involved and discuss what went well and what needs to be adjusted. How will you make it better next time? This is very important and while I do believe teachers reflect on their practice, put these reflections in writing.
Collaboration isn’t easy. It takes work. The library can become an, even more, essential part of the school, and everyone can view the school librarian as a teacher. To head in the right direction, the library media specialist needs to be a leader. Take charge, reach out to classroom teachers, and work together. The change to a more collaborative relationship can work.